Implement one project this school year to build classroom rapport and student skills.

Creating a positive climate and culture in your classroom at the beginning of the year sets the tone for the year ahead. With that in mind, April Wurtsmith, a fifth grade teacher starting her fourth year of teaching at Independence Elementary in Aurora, Colorado, created a project to help her students get to know each other well, set a positive, inviting classroom tone, and introduce her students to technology skills they will use throughout the year -- researching, following technology procedures, and using tools like WeVideo, Schoology, and Google Apps for Education. Check out the video below to get a glimpse of what this project entailed and what her students had to say about it.

A Great Start to the Year

So how can you create a similar experience in your classroom by implementing one project?

Encourage Interpersonal Skills

Start by asking students to answer questions that help them build relationships with their peers. Consider questions such as, “What do you want to know about each other? What do you want other people to know about you? What makes people special? What makes them different?” Use a Schoology (or another online learning platform) to get students talking about these questions.

Build Technology Skills

After students have participated in the brainstorming discussion, describe how they will be using these questions as a basis for a video project. Focus on teaching students digital citizenship skills and how to use new technologies effectively and responsibly.

To continue with April’s project:
  1. Have students enter their top two questions on a Google Form. Then, embed the Google Form response sheet into Schoology where students can be given permission to review the class responses and edit theirs to be unique.
  2. Have students choose 5-10 questions from the class question set and have them interview partners using these questions.
  3. After students have completed the interview process, they will create a WeVideo with pictures and live interviews of other students -- but before they start to produce the video, make sure to teach students to curate pictures for their partners responsibly, while paying attention to copyright. is a great place to curate photos.

Celebrate Success

Often, students complete projects and receive little more than a grade and a few comments for their effort. In order to create a classroom of respect and rapport, remember to celebrate students’ hard work and achievement. Celebrations create positive classroom environments and help to spark new ideas as students share their work.

To continue with April’s project:
  1. Host a gallery walk or whole-class viewing session to watch other videos and to get ideas for editing.
  2. Allow for substantial edit time after the gallery walk. Many students will want to go back and change things after seeing ideas from other students.
  3. Host a film festival that showcases the students’ final videos – consider inviting parents to the festival, or post the videos on a secured website such as SchoolTube.

If you start school with a project like this, your students will be stronger tech users and have created student friendships that are sure to last throughout the year and beyond! 

Kris E.

I earned my BA in Elementary Education from Michigan State in 1993 and an MS in Computer Education from North Texas in 1999. I taught Language Arts, technology, and was a technology coordinator at the middle school level prior to my current role as a Technology & Blended Learning Coach for Cherry Creek Schools in Aurora, Colorado.